Happy lunar new year foodies and welcome to the year of Tiger. The tiger in Asian cultures embodies courage and bravery, so the new year symbolises resilience and strength. This is even more important during the pandemic – a time that many people struggles. The 2022 tiger is a water tiger which has a strong moral compass with open mind. This means the year can encourage us to take charge of our lives and to live well with COVID-19.
2022 is my fourth year since Tina and I moved from Adelaide to Canberra for work. During these four years, many things have changed but one thing remained the same – the Lunar New Year Celebration. Central to this celebration is one thing for us, good food. Good food using Australian produce is even more important to me since our 14 years of continuous promotion of how local produces can be used to create international cuisines.
This year we continued to include some traditional dishes in the NYE Dinner while adding new elements to them using Australian ingredients. There are four cold dishes and four hot dishes, ranging from vegetable and meat to seafood. The eight dishes include:
- Spicy braised cold beef osso bucco (酱牛肉, Jiang Niu Rou）
- Spicy Szechuan chicken with chili sauce (椒麻鸡, Jiao Ma Ji)
- Spinach salad with shitake mushroom (香菇菠菜）
- Prosperity Toss – Cantonese-style raw fish salad (鱼生捞起，Yu Sheng Lao Qi)
- Deep fried pork tossed in sweet and sour sauce (锅包肉, Guo Bao Rou)
- Eastern rock lobster mornay
- Steamed Humpty Doo Barramundi (清蒸鱼, Qing Zheng Yu）
- Buddha jumping over the wall (佛跳墙, Fuo Tiao Qiang)
Spicy braised cold beef osso bucco (酱牛肉, Jiang Niu Rou) – The whole local beef osso bucco from Mikes Meats in Fyshwick Fresh Food Market was marinated and braised under high pressure for 30 minutes with 16 different herbs and spices. The beef was cooled and cut into fine pieces and then mixed with coriander and finely chopped birds eye chili.
Jiang Niu Rou is a northern China favourite and the dish is enjoyed all the way from Shanghai to Tsingtao (Qingdao) and Beijing. It is best eater cold and is always cooked with osso bucco (without bones, or we call gravy beef here in Australia). The dish is flavoursome with a wide array of spiciness and fragrance from the 16 spices used for cooking. The meat is very tender due to the nature of osso bucco.
Spicy Szechuan chicken with chili sauce (椒麻鸡, Jiao Ma Ji) – Lilydale free range chicken drumstick was boiled in water until thoroughly cooked. The chicken was then cooled in cold water (or in fridge) and chopped into pieces before adding chili and vinegar source before serving. The sauce is quite a complex sauce – if of interest, I can publish a recipe.
Jiao Ma Ji is a szechuan cuisine dish. Szechuan (or Sichuan) cuisine is one of the eight major streams of Chinese cuisine and is famous for its hot and spiciness. This dish is very spicy but yet refreshing and has always been on my lunar new year’s eve dinner list.
Spinach salad with shitake mushroom (香菇菠菜）- Fresh English spinach was quickly cooked in boiling water to remove the earthy tastes and then cooled in fridge and tossed with freshly diced boiled shitake mushroom in the wok.
This dish is a taiwanese cuisine dish originally and has become ever popular on the mainland. It is quite refreshing and serves well as a palate cleaner between the meat dishes while adding the vegetable component to the lunar new year’s eve dinner.
Prosperity Toss – Cantonese-style raw fish salad (鱼生捞起，Yu Sheng Lao Qi) – This is probably one of the most famous dish from the Cantonese cuisine. Originated in Guangdong (i.e. Canton) using freshwater fish, this dish has been wide spread across Malaysia and other regions of the world. As we all know the issue with raw freshwater fish, in recent years this dish has been using salmon as an alternative while in the Canton regions in China, freshwater fish is still used.
In my dish, I used Huon Tasmanian sashimi grade salmon with cooked jelly fish slices, spring onion, carrot, home grown cucumber slices. To eat the dish, just mix them well using forks or chopsticks and this process is the name ‘Prosperity Toss’ came from, meaning to gain good luck and money. Flavour-wise, it tastes pretty much like sashimi to me.
Now let’s dig into the hot dishes.
Deep fried pork tossed in sweet and sour sauce (锅包肉, Guo Bao Rou) – Isn’t this sweet and sour pork? Some of you may have this question. Not quite. The difference is in the cooking method especially how the sour flavour is generated. Premium local pork scotch was sliced, deep fried and then stir fried/tossed with white vinegar and sugar mixture and served hot.
Guo Bao Rou is a typical Northeast cuisine dish of the Chinese cuisine. Popular in Liaoning, Ji Lin and Heilong Jiang Province and have been widely welcomed/liked in other Chinese regions. The meat is deep fried to crispy while still maintaining a good level of moisture and coated with a good level of sweet and sour flavour.
Eastern rock lobster mornay – strictly speaking this is not a Chinese cuisine (yes without saying right?!). People in Hong Kong first learned this from the western world. The one I had/made was with garlic mince and oyster sauce before adding mozzarella balls to grill. A nice change from our Aussie style.
What I want to emphasise on this dish is the lobster I used – Eastern rock lobster. This crayfish is native to our east coast along the coastal lines of NSW. Unlike its close relative Southern Rock Lobster, the eastern rock lobster has a dark brownish color with red/brown claws while the sizes are similar. Read my previous post on Southern Rock Lobster.
Look at the size of the Eastern Rock Lobster below!
The lobster was so yummy and delicious, even when I left it overnight. Yum!
Steamed Humpty Doo Barramundi (清蒸鱼, Qing Zheng Yu）– When Australia’s premium Humpty Doo Barramundi meets the Cantonese steamed fish, the interaction create an absolute miracle. The big fat fish was super tender and full of flavours after cooking with the surprising soy sauce adds extra layers of tastes into the delicate seafood.
Humpty Doo is a small town in Northern Territory, situated approximately 40 km from Darwin. It produces some of the nation’s top wild caught barramundi fish that is super premium and is considered as a delicacy in many cuisines.
The Qing Zheng Yu is a traditional Cantonese dish known to the western word but the dish is actually widely spread across China, though the cooking methods are significantly different between regions. The version we had was traditional Cantonese.
Buddha jumping over the wall (佛跳墙, Fuo Tiao Qiang) – This is one of the top delicacy in the Chinese cuisine. Originated as a Fu Jian cuisine, this dish is easy to cook but complicated to prepare. Since its creation during the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), the dish has been regarded as a Chinese delicacy known for its rich taste, and special manner of cooking.
My Fuo Tiao Qiang included South Australian abalone, East Coast sea cucumbers, Malaysian fish balls, re-hydrated dried fish maw (from the Asian groceries), beef tripe and beef tendon and so on. This dish is high in gluten and protein and makes the mouth super sticky after tasting. This soup is highly priced in regions where Chinese people habitat. It is about AUD$100 for a small cup (about 150 – 200 mL).
Some Chinese people believe this dish as medicinal uses. As a scientist, the best I can say is it may have nutritional benefits rather than medicinal. However, neither are important to me because all I am here for is the great taste, texture and flavour.
So this is it readers. Another year, another lunar new year. I look forward to a good year ahead in my own career and hopefully I will have some spare time to publish more of my culinary journey and adventures. But one thing for sure has been penciled down – I will publish a recipe for the Buddha Jumping Over the Wall shortly.
The next post will be about a restaurant experience Tina and I had recently. Until next time, have a happy lunar new year!